Resilient Bears insist they won’t pack it in
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org December 18, 2011 10:06PM
Edwin Williams (left) and Lance Briggs trudge off the field after losing to the Seahawks. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: January 20, 2012 8:21AM
The Bears pride themselves on their resilience, on their refusal to succumb to any adversity that comes their way.
It’s an endearing quality, the kind of ‘‘let’s prove everyone wrong’’ mentality that carried them to the NFC Championship Game last season and propelled them to a 7-3 start this season.
After a 31-20 victory against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 20, the Bears were one of the hottest teams in the league and were clicking on both sides of the ball.
‘‘I don’t think anyone could foresee what has happened these last four games,’’ cornerback Charles Tillman said after a 38-14 loss Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks dropped the Bears to 7-7. ‘‘I thought we were going to win out.’’
In 2000, author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fascinating book called The Tipping Point. He defined the tipping point as ‘‘the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.’’
After serious injuries sidelined quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, the Bears collapsed Dec. 11 against the Denver Broncos, blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and losing on a 51-yard field goal in overtime.
But if that devastating loss wasn’t enough, the Bears surely reached the tipping point when they learned receiver Sam Hurd had been arrested Wednesday on federal drug charges and faced up to 40 years in prison for conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more
Stubborn as ever, the Bears collectively downplayed the distraction of Hurd’s arrest. The only player who didn’t dismiss that notion to me was veteran defensive tackle Anthony Adams.
‘‘It’s been a roller-coaster ride, man,’’ Adams said, staring at the floor in front of him. ‘‘Can’t get too high, can’t get too low.
‘‘We took some huge blows, man. It’s been a rough season.’’
Naturally, the Bears were rattled right away. After converting a third down in the first quarter, receiver Johnny Knox was drilled as he tried to recover his fumble. Seahawks defensive end Anthony Hargrove pushed Knox’s back backward — far past normal. Knox was tended to for several minutes before being put on a flat board, carted off the field and taken to a local hospital.
On the next play, Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson completed a 21-yard pass to third-string tight end Cameron Morrah. The Bears’ defense turned away three consecutive plays, but backup cornerback Corey Graham was flagged for illegally launching himself in an effort to block the field-goal attempt. The Seahawks scored on the next play.
On the Seahawks’ next series, though, Julius Peppers forced a fumble in the end zone that fellow defensive end Israel Idonije recovered for a touchdown.
Even the Bears’ offense showed some life, with Caleb Hanie tossing a 25-yard touchdown pass to running back Kahlil Bell late in the second quarter.
But the Seahawks owned the third and fourth quarters, scoring 31 unanswered points.
Asked if the Bears’ defense was under too much pressure, Tillman said: ‘‘Not at all. That’s just how we think. That’s just who we are. We’d like to take the load, and we take it with pride.’’
The reality, however, is that the Bears aren’t playing with a winning formula. Hanie has thrown nine interceptions — two of them returned for touchdowns — in the last four games. There have been too many breakdowns in pass protection, with Hanie being sacked 19 times during that stretch. And there have been untimely lapses on special teams and defense, too.
‘‘It’s tough,’’ receiver Roy Williams said. ‘‘[We were] 7-3, and everything [was] looking good. All of a sudden, we’re 7-7 in the blink of an eye.’’
A distraught Devin Hester struggled for words after the game.
‘‘I never thought it would end like that,’’ he said. ‘‘Our season is not over yet, but I never thought we’d be in the position we are now.’’
The Bears aren’t mathematically eliminated from the NFC playoff race, but they’ll need to win out and have to get plenty of help.
Predictably, though, the Bears were adamant they wouldn’t fall prey to the most dreaded word of all: quitter.
‘‘Coach [Lovie] Smith is a good motivator,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘I don’t think anyone is going to quit on him or quit on this team. I think we circle the wagons, we stick together.
‘‘We’ve gone through so much together. We’re close, and we have each other’s backs. In tough times, that’s how you get through it.’’